What is the Difference Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis?

Many people use the term arthritis interchangeably to describe the symptoms and causes of progressive joint deterioration and pain. However, there are several different forms of arthritis, which result in inflammation of the joints and results from a number of causes depending on the type. The most common form is osteoarthritis (OA), and is generally caused by aging and the resulting wear and tear on the joints, most commonly those of the knees and hips. It can also result from a traumatic impact suffered from a car accident, a fall, or from an old sports injury. Arthritis treatment can make a major difference in everyday life and comfort.

Another common form, known as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), is actually an autoimmune disorder which occurs when the body’s own immune system targets healthy tissue. Both can lead to cartilage loss and permanent joint damage, which can cause chronic pain and affect proper function and mobility of the joint.

Osteoarthritis Causes, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

The bones in the various joints throughout the body are lined with a layer of cartilage, which prevents friction and allows the bones to glide freely to facilitate the motions that allow us to bend the knees, raise our arms above our shoulders, and sit and stand without experiencing pain and stiffness. Over time, the cartilage can wear out, leaving the ends of the bones exposed, which can result in pain and permanent damage to the joint if left untreated.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in Los Angeles. The most common symptoms are:

  • Pain, tenderness, and stiffness in the affected joints, especially in the morning or after sitting for long periods of time
  • Limited flexibility and range of motion
  • Grating from friction between the ends of the bones
  • Bone spurs

Anyone can develop and suffer from osteoarthritis, however, there are certain conditions and risk factors that can make the likelihood of developing the condition higher, including:

  • Age – the risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with age
  • Gender – women are more prone to developing OA
  • Excessive weight – in addition to adding pressure and strain to the knee and hip joints, being overweight can also increase the risk of dangerous inflammation, which can irritate the joints and lead to other health problems as well
  • Heredity – genetic factors and a family history of OA can increase an individual’s risk for arthritis
  • Traumatic injuries – previous trauma and damage to a joint from an injury can increase the risk of developing cartilage and joint degeneration later in life
  • Congenital defects – people born with damaged joints or cartilage deformities have a greater risk of developing arthritis
  • Lifestyle and occupation hazards – engaging in physical activities and jobs that require repetitive motions can affect cartilage and joint function over time

RA Causes, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

Although Beverly Hills rheumatoid arthritis affects the joints and can have some overlapping symptoms with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a malfunction in the immune system that causes it to mistake healthy cells and tissue for foreign invaders, and setting off an immune response that attacks the healthy cells. The main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are:

  • Fever
  • Unexplained fatigue and weight loss
  • Pain, tenderness, warmth, stiffness, redness, and swelling of the affected joints
  • Limping and limited range of motion

RA tends to begin in the smaller joints of the fingers and toes, and then progress to the larger joints. Unlike OA it affects multiple joints at once on both sides of the body. LA rheumatoid arthritis can affect other organs and tissue in the body in addition to the joints and can lead to permanent joint damage and deformity over time. Like all medical conditions, rheumatoid arthritis affects everyone differently, and the range and severity of symptoms vary from patient to patient.

Causes and Risk Factors for Rheumatic Disease

A direct cause for the onset of rheumatoid arthritis is unclear, but genetics are believed to play a role in the development and progression of inflammation that triggers the adverse immune response responsible for RA-related joint degeneration.

Some risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis in Los Angeles:

  • Gender – more common in women
  • Age – while RA can develop at any age, it is most common in adults between the ages of 40 and 60
  • Lifestyle factors – people who smoke tobacco and are overweight can be at a higher risk of developing the condition
  • Environmental and industrial contaminants – while the data is still inconclusive, rheumatologists and health experts believe that exposure to certain pollutants and chemicals like asbestos and silica can increase the risk of autoimmune disorders in some people

Learn more about rheumatic diseases at nccih.nih.gov

Arthritis and Rheumatic Disease Treatment in Los Angeles

For more information on treatment and symptom management options for osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic joint pain treatment, contact rheumatologist and osteoarthritis specialist Dr. Susan Baker at (310) 274–7770 to schedule an appointment today.

Next, read What are the Different Forms of Arthritis?

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